Promos and stuff happened. The women yelled at each other backstage. I didn't pay much attention because I was watching PWG instead.
ZACK RYDER vs. MOJO RAWLEY - 5.5/10
Ryder charged at Mojo and really took it to him early, including running his back into the apron a few times, but when they got back into the ring Mojo completely cut him off with a spinebuster and just dominated from there... and so help me G-d Mojo Rawley looked like a dangerous and effective heel. That tackle into the barricade looked vicious as hell.
Mojo would eventually start to taunt Zack and shout "WHERE'S YOUR KILLER INSTINCT?" until Zack showed it to him by slapping him in the face and firing up and making a big come back before Mojo eventually put him down.
THE PANEL DISCUSS WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IF OWENS & ZAYN LOSE - They not only call Owens & Zayn "key players" and wonder about the "gaping hole" that would be left if these two were fired, but even flat-out said that Smackdown would be less entertaining. And this was a point that all three panelists (Renee, Otunga, & Roberts) agreed with. Otunga, who is the most heelish of all of them, even said that he thought Bryan would act totally reasonably and fairly rather than doing what Owens & Zayn want just because Owens & Zayn want it.
TRIPLE THREAT MATCH FOR THE WWE UNITED STATES TITLE:
Baron Corbin(c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler - 7/10
A great opener, and a match that far exceeded the expectations its build provided. This was, in essence, your standard three-way, but with some extremely clever little twists in major spots towards the end.
SHANE & BRYAN BACKSTAGE - Shane was an obnoxious, self-absorbed piece of sh*t who doesn't seem to have any conception of how unfair the things he is doing are or how they could be damaging to the brand. They discuss how this two referees thing will work, which you'd think they would have talked about before the show started. Bryan said they should talk about it somewhere "more private," which had me greatly confused because they're already in their office, and we're supposed to pretend that cameras aren't there.
DASHA INTERVIEWS BARON CORBIN - She asks him if losing the US Title, combined with him losing his MITB cash-in (which I totally forgotten about already) justifies people saying that he has been "squandering his opportunities." Oh come on! The fact that he was able to lose this title by definition means that he capitalized on an opportunity by winning it!
Corbin whines and says that he was cheated because Dolph didn't earn a title shot and thus never should have been in there in the first place... and he's not wrong.
AIDEN ENGLISH SINGS - Literally the same thing we got on Smackdown. I would have much rather they used these sixty seconds to make one of the matches longer.
FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR THE WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos(c) vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs. Aiden English & Rusev vs. The New Day (w/Xavier Woods) - 5.75/10
The Usos cut an obnoxious promo on their way down to the ring. They made fun of Aiden English's song by singing "N Days" and then shouting "LOCKDOWN!" the whole way down to one.
The real gimmick here was that there would be four guys in the ring at once and you could only tag your own partner. Unfortunately, this led to me having a lot of trouble keeping track of what was going on, especially in the beginning, because there were just too many bodies (and New Day's attention-drawing eye-sore gear didn't help)... which is odd because the wrestlers seem to have wrestled the first have of the match in a way specifically designed to prevent such issues. Rather than anything the wrestlers did or my own attention span, I think the real culprit here is WWE's announcing style. Announcers calling the moves would have helped me follow along, but WWE's "repeat your talking points ad nauseum" style just adds noise rather than helping clarify.
On the whole, this gimmick was a big negative because the only time it really felt relevant, it made it difficult for me to keep track of things, and the wrestlers wrestled the second half of the match like it was a Tornado match, anyway. I could be wrong, but I suspect that at least Shelton and Kofi got hurt in some way because they pretty much disappeared for the second half of the match (and one of the Usos, too, but they were both highly involved in the finish and didn't seem hurt). The Usos retained their titles, with Gable eating the pin, thus killing off the team that they have done the best job building up even though there were two other teams to pin, one of which they were supposedly done feuding with two months ago. The last minute or two was exciting, but everything wasn't particularly good.
LUMBERJACK MATCH FOR THE WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S TITLE:
Charlotte Flair(c) vs. Natalya - 0.5/10
Each of the Lumberjill factions got a separate entrance, just to kill time. The almost immediately they have Nattie, the heel, sent to the outside... and rather than just throw her back in like she's supposed to, Naomi, a babyface, started stomping away at her. Byron Saxton had nothing to say about this. Of course, when Charlotte was then sent to the outside and the heels started to beat on her, Byron was complaining that they weren't allowed to do this. Not only did this expose Byron as a hypocrite, but it also gave Graves the opening to make the obvious excuse for the heels that they were giving some payback for what Naomi had started.
Whoever put this match together seems to not understand that the Lumberjills are not supposed to be beat one the wrestler on the outside and the referee is supposed to call for a DQ if he or she sees the Lumberjills do anything other than throw the wrestler back into the ring. Which, by the way, is exactly what Carmella did to Nattie, and Byron Saxton wanted me to get upset about it. Whoever was the agent on this match should be fired because he (or she? I don't think WWE has any female agents unless Death Rey is doing it) clearly doesn't understand a basic wrestling gimmick.
This match was just a series of giant schmozzes, both on the outside and even in the ring. We got another teased MITB cash-in, then Charlotte decided to be an idiot and do a moonsault onto the pile of women on the outside rather than go after Nattie, which allowed Nattie to take over by running Charlotte's head into the post. Nattie then rolled Charlotte into the ring and went for the Sharpshooter but Charlotte immediately reversed it into the Figure Eight and made Nattie tap. If you were going to have Nattie tap out cleanly, why couldn't we just have had a singles match where these two could have given us the awesome wrestling match we all know they're capable of rather than having to build their match around a series of interferences entirely in the form of stomps.
KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS NATTIE - Bad. Nattie says her loss isn't her fault and that Charlotte used her family's name- an accusation that not only makes no sense here, but is also frustrating because it seems to be the only thing Creative can ever come up with for someone to say about Charlotte- and then says that the fans and the other wrestlers don't respect her so she is going to "turn her back on" them. So basically, she turned heel... except that she's already a heel! She walked off crying, and there is part of me that is worried that Nattie is retiring and WWE decided to send her off with this sh*tty match and this sh*tty angle.
DASHA WANTS TO INTERVIEW JINDER - The Singh Brothers tell her she can't because Jinder is meditating, so they cut Jinder's promo for him. They were clowns. They also teased that they wouldn't be at ringside for tonight's match, which would be about the eighth time that they've claimed that would be the case and it wasn't so why should anyone believe them this time?
TYLER BREEZE & FANDANGO vs. THE BLUDGEON BROTHERS - squash
They're trying to claim that this is somehow the payoff to all of the Fashion Files episodes ever. F*ck off. Fortunately they let this be what it should have been, which was a complete and total destruction. I was hoping they would use their axes to kill off Fandango so the Fashion Police would go away forever, but alas not.
BLUDGEON BROTHERS PROMO - All you need to know about this was that it started off with Rowan declaring that "the future holds MORE BLUDGEONING." I don't know if I love these guys or hate them.
DASHA INTERVIEWS OWENS & ZAYN - Stuff was said. None of it mattered to anything.
TAG TEAM MATCH WITH DANIEL BRYAN & SHANE MCMAHON AS SPECIAL GUEST REFEREES AND IN WHICH IF OWENS & ZAYN LOSE THEY ARE FIRED FROM ALL OF WWE:
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura - 6.5/10
Bryan is wearing a regular referee's shirt, but Shane gets to wear a fancy one with "Shane O'Mac" written across the front of it. Actually, Shane's shirt doesn't even have a WWE logo on it, so it's really just a striped shirt rather than an official WWE referee's shirt. But Shane gets to get away with wearing his own fancy custom shirt because he's the boss' son, and he insists on doing so because he's an egotistical douchebag. Your babyface, ladies and gentlemen.
Dumbf*ck Shane yelled at Bryan for counting Nakamura's shoulders down when Nakamura had Owens in a triangle choke, as if that somehow negates all pinfalls. This would be dumb under any circumstances, but when you realize that it has been the finish of several very high-profile matches in WWE history (Bret vs. Austin from Survivor Series 1996 immediately springs to mind). To be even, they gave Bryan a spot where he maybe overstepped his bounds by having him yell at Orton for knocking into the ropes, causing Zayn to be crotched on the turnbuckle. I'm not actually sure this is illegal, especially since Randy and Zayn were the legal men at the time.
It very much felt like the two referees were getting in each other's way and in some cases the desire to not create a confrontation with the other almost paralyzed them and prevented them from doing their jobs... which was, of course, exactly what we were supposed to feel, but once they went to the outside and started doing things with the tables, it went too far for my comfort and they both looked bad.
The first really big spot to trouble between the refs in the match (the aforementioned spots were more intended to stir things up between them, but this is what started the real issues) saw Orton hit Zayn with an RKO and go for the pin which Shane counted, but it was broken up when Owens shoved Bryan onto Shane. Shane and Orton both understandably got angry at Bryan and Shane shouted "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" at Bryan, but instead of answer, Bryan didn't say anything. If Bryan was really going to call this down the middle, he should have just called for the bell and DQed Owens (he saw Owens push him).
That being said, we can definitely understand why Bryan was keeping silent here. He knows that these men have been put in this situation unfairly and he doesn't want to end their careers at all, never mind on a DQ, and especially if he felt that he was, in fact, in the way and Owens wouldn't have needed to push him if this were a normal match with just one referee. I'd argue that it's still not the correct refereeing call, but we can understand and empathize with Bryan's conflict here.
Compare that to Shane, who started to count a pinfall that Zayn had on Orton, and then just stopped after two when it became clear that Randy wasn't going to kick out. Kind of reminds you of this, doesn't it:
I guess leopards never change their refereeing habits, huh Shane? And I will, of course, remind everyone, that in that clip it Shane who is being a heel and screwing "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. So why am I supposed to think Shane is the babyface here?
Bryan rightfully got in Shane's face over this, and corrected things by fast-counting Orton the next time Zayn pinned him (another roll-up, immediately afterwards). Shane yelled at Bryan and yelled back. They did a good job of making sure that the idea of this was that Bryan was correcting for Shane's injustice rather than that Bryan was siding with Owens & Zayn because he agrees with absolutely everything they've been saying, which definitely keeps Bryan as the babyface, but the way they've done thing in this feud seems designed to make it less and less possible to see Shane as anything but a heel... and yet if you listen to the commentary- especially Byron Saxton, who last week's show all but established as the voice of the company on things, we are, indeed supposed to see Shane as the babyface.
This was more of an angle about Bryan and Shane than a match between these two teams, but I've chosen to rate it as a match anyway because 1) that angle was the central story of this twenty-minute match, and 2) Orton, Nakamura, Owens, and Zayn do deserve a large amount of credit for the stuff here that kept my attention and entertained me for these twenty minutes.
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles(c) vs. Jinder Mahal (w/the Singh Brothers) - 8.75/10
The main story of this match was Jinder working over AJ's ribs, and AJ having to fight through it. One thing I really enjoyed about this (aside from AJ's selling and the consistency with which they stuck to this story, of course) was that they seemed to make an effort to use moves that don't see a lot of use in WWE nowadays, like the body scissors, the double-knee gutbuster and the gordbuster onto the ropes.
For his limited offense that wasn't in some way intended to show the effects on the damage to his ribs, AJ worked Jinder's leg. I would have preferred it they had a bit more time to focus on that, but the very long struggle in the Calf Crusher definitely worked as a finish. Props to Jinder for his selling of that as well. He made me feel like he could tap at any moment, and the pain on his face made it believable from the first moment AJ got the hold in until Jinder finally tapped a good forty-five seconds or so later. I can't say that Jinder feels like a main eventer yet, but this feud with AJ has definitely shown that Jinder is at least someone who can be carried to a main event level match by the right babyfaces. At the end of 2017, I'd much rather see Jinder in a main event that Cody Rhodes, and that's not something I'd have ever though I would have said even as far back as June.
Another bad show from WWE (and Smackdown in particular), saved by AJ Styles pulling something amazing out of Jinder Mahal. The build to this show was poor, and the resultant PPV was a fine example of how over-gimmicking can get in the way of the wrestlers' ability to have a great match. The worst part is that, although there were some changes to the status quo on this show, none of them aside from Jinder's clean loss (and maybe a total absence of Nattie) feel like they will result in enough of a change to make this show feel like anything is going on that what we've seen in the build-up to this PPV, and I'm quite worried that we're going to get six straight weeks of the exact same nothing as we build to the Royal Rumble.